Trouble in DC
Highlander: The Series, Forever Knight, X-Files, JAG, and Tom Clancy novels crossover
Jennifer was in the shower and I was idly flipping through the channels when I came to a crashing halt.
" . . . To repeat, Baltimore police today found Deputy Director Andrea Price-O'Day of the United States Secret Service dead this morning near the Baltimore docks. Police spokesmen will not release the cause of death but do admit that it is being treated as a homicide investigation. However, they will not comment on a possible motive. Deputy Director Price-O'Day was head of the protective branch of the Secret Service, serving recently as Chief of Detail for President Ryan before he promoted her to Deputy Director a year ago. A spokesman for the President called the act 'a shocking waste' of a valued agent."
The scene cut away from the solemn faced reporter standing in front of a warehouse in a docking district back to the front desk where they promised us the financial news right after this commercial break.
I flicked off the TV before dropping the remote. Leaning forward to rest my head in my hands, I let out a tired sigh. Shit, shit, SHIT. There goes another one of my friends. True, it'd been better than a year since I'd left Washington, but what was a year among Immortal acquaintances?
I was still staring at the carpet between my feet when I heard Jen pick up the phone and dial. Until then, I hadn't even realized she was done with her shower. Once someone answered at the other end, she said, "Yes, I'd like two tickets from Seacouver to Washington, DC leaving tonight." She paused, and I looked up at her in appreciation. I didn't have to explain or ask anything. She'd heard, and she understood. Smiling sympathetically at me, she continued into the phone, "Yes, that will be fine. Have them at the counter under the name of Ryan Allen, please. Thank you." She hung up and walked over to me, still clad only in a towel that barely covered her.
Tugging gently on one arm, she pulled me up and wrapped me in a hug, laying her head on my chest and twining her arms around my waist. I hugged her tight and sighed. "Thank you," I mumbled after nearly a minute. Nothing else really needed to be said.
She nodded before pulling back and looking up at me. "Plane leaves in two hours. We'd better pack." She smiled suddenly and placed one finger on my chest where her hair had left a wide damp spot. "You need to change."
Smiling slightly at her attempt to cheer me up, I nodded and followed her into the bedroom to begin packing.
Hours later at National Airport in DC, I approached the security desk with my paperwork firmly in hand. They had my sword and gun, and I wasn't about to leave them there.
"Ryan," Jen muttered from beside me.
"Hmm?" I asked, making sure I had the antique transfer papers and the permit saying it was okay for me as an armed courier to have the gun. I would have rather had them on me for the flight, but that paperwork is even harder to deal with.
"That man in the charcoal suit behind us has been following us since we got off the plane," said Jennifer casually. From her tone, she may have been talking about the weather.
Pulling Jen over to the water fountain, I whispered for her to take a drink as I casually looked over to spot our tail. The instant I spotted him, my face and his broke into grins.
He came up and stuck out his hand to me. "You're slipping, Agent Allen. It took your girlfriend to spot me?"
Laughing, I shook his hand and replied, "Hey, you guys never taught me any of your cloak and dagger tricks. How're you doing, Kevin?"
His face fell and he sighed. "Well enough under the circumstances."
Realizing that he was looking at Jen curiously, I introduced them. "Jen, this is Special Agent Kevin Kessler of the Secret Service. Kevin, this is Jennifer, my wife." They shook hands politely as I continued my explanation, "He took over the Presidential Detail when Andrea got promoted. He and I bumped heads a few times when I worked for Jack."
"Bumped heads," Kevin muttered good naturedly. He shook his head and addressed Jen. "Don't listen to him. We ignored each other until that night in Chicago. THEN this young man had the unmitigated gall to begin giving orders! Can you believe that?" he finished with a theatrical sigh.
Jen looked at me with a raised eyebrow, not knowing Kevin was teasing.
I shook my head and sighed. "Andrea gave me that authority for a very specific reason, and we'd just hit those reasons. No offense, but you didn't know what you were dealing with."
Flicking a glance at Jen, Kevin folded his arms and said, "I still don't, really."
One of my eyebrows went up. "I thought Andrea explained us to you."
He shook his head, more in reflection than to indicate rejection of my comment. "I heard her. That doesn't mean I believed her or understand it."
Jen was looking at us both strangely by this point. I dropped my voice a little and said, "Believe it, Kevin. Immortals exist."
Jen and Kevin shared a glance and discovered this wasn't news to either of them. They both relaxed slightly, knowing that the other knew.
"Anyway," Kevin went on suddenly, "I just wanted to meet you when you got here to give you this." He dug a wallet out of his pocket and handed it over.
Opening it, I found a Secret Service badge. I idly noticed it was even my old badge number. Looking up at him, I smiled and asked, "What is this for?"
Kevin shrugged, looking almost embarrassed. "Officially, it's easier for you to wave that to get into Director Price's funeral."
I looked at him for a moment, waiting for him to continue. When he didn't, I prodded, "And unofficially?"
He sighed. "Unofficially . . ." His gaze fell to the floor before he went on, "I figured you would want to look into the reason that Director Price was killed . . ." He looked up and continued, "It was easier this way to let you into the crime scene."
I smiled. I did indeed want to track this asshole down. Kevin just simplified my life. Nodding, I folded the holder and placed it into my pocket, just as it had been resting there a year ago. Holding out my hand to him, I said, "Yes, I do. Thank you, Kevin."
He shook my hand again and said, "For what? I didn't do anything." A mischievous grin appeared and he pulled an envelope out of a pocket and handed it to me. "As I said, I haven't done anything officially." Stepping back, he folded his hands in front of himself and took on his official Secret Service bearing again. "Have a nice visit to Washington, DC, folks." With that, he turned and melted back into the flow of people.
I slipped the envelope into my coat pocket and chuckled. "I always did like him."
"What was that all about?" asked Jen in confusion.
Smiling, I said, "Kevin knows what Andrea and I are, obviously. He wants her killer tracked down, but he can't officially catch this guy. He knows that I can do so unofficially, so he gave me the means to do it." I sighed slightly as I flipped through my courier documentation again and started heading back toward the security desk. "Since it was unofficial, that means that I'm on my own, though." I grinned when I remembered two Immortal friends here in DC with connections of their own. "At least from Service resources," I finished as I got in line to get my swords and gun back.
I got up after only a few hours of sleep and left Jen sleeping in the hotel. Andrea's funeral was the next afternoon, and I wanted to do a little investigating before then.
As I parked my rental car in front of a warehouse among a dozen identical siblings, I pulled the first page out of the envelope that Kevin had given me earlier that morning and compared the address with the large numbers printed above the human sized door in front of me. Seeing that I had arrived at the right place, I climbed out of my car and gave the other vehicle parked there a cursory glance. It was a cherry red SUV with Virginia plates. That could mean anyone.
I took three steps toward the door before stopping in my tracks at a Buzz. My hand made it to the pommel of my wakizashi before my brain caught up with my hands. Studying the aura for a moment, I concluded it was a very young Immortal (less than ten years) and had no heads to their credit. I relaxed. Whoever it was, I doubted they were a hunter.
Finishing my walk to the door, I opened it and cautiously stepped in. It was a large open space, looking vaguely like Mac's place in that there were support pillars but nothing else in the place. Toward the center, there were two people standing within a rough rectangle composed of yellow police tape. They were both looking at me as I closed the door behind me and strode toward them calmly, keeping my hands out in plain sight.
As I neared them, they both ducked under the tape and approached. The tall man wearing a tan uniform and pilot's wings said, "Do you mind my asking what you're doing here? This is a crime scene." He seemed slightly annoyed but also curious.
Lifting the side of my coat slightly with my left hand, my right disappeared into the pocket and came up with my newly returned badge. The whole thing had been done slowly enough to not panic the Immortal of the pair but quick enough to not look too suspicious. When my hand started moving toward the inner coat, I saw the woman tense but then relax when it reappeared. So she was the Immortal, I assumed.
I flipped open the badge for their inspection. Since he'd been the only one speaking, I addressed myself to him. "Special Agent Ryan Allen of the Secret Service."
The tall man took the badge and studied it as well as he could in the partial light. While he was otherwise distracted, I looked over at his partner for a moment, seeing an attractive woman dressed in a similar tan "casual" uniform top with an olive green skirt before returning my attention to him. Wait a minute . . . I looked over at her again. Yep, I HAVE met her before. Diane Schonke wasn't it?
"Thank you, Agent," the man interrupted my musings and handed my badge back. "I'm Commander Harmon Rabb of the Judge Advocate General." I shook his offered hand as his other waved at Diane. "This is my partner, Lieutenant Colonel Sarah MacKenzie." Releasing his hand, I also shook hers. Sarah MacKenzie, huh? To be fair, I hadn't given him my real name either.
Once I released her hand, I cocked my head at the both of them and asked, "JAG? How's the military interested in this?"
"The killings took place close enough to the Baltimore Shipyards to be a concern to the Navy, Agent Allen," responded Diane. No, that's SARAH. I'd better remember that.
First thing's first, though. I smiled charmingly at her and replied, "Ryan, please. I'll never forgive myself if I force such a pretty woman to call me 'Agent Allen'."
She gave me a small smile in return before nodding her head slightly. "Then it's Mac."
I nodded and turned back to Commander Rabb. "Is the Navy still concerned, Commander, or is this just a quick look?"
He looked somewhere between amused, disgusted, and . . . annoyed? "Honestly, it doesn't look like anything to concern JAG about. Still, it is odd. A prominent Secret Service Director gets beheaded in a Baltimore warehouse that shows signs of electrical discharge?"
That's what it would look like, anyway, I silently agreed.
Nodding vaguely to agree with his assessment, I ducked under the police tape and looked around the crime scene. I certainly wasn't trained in the forensic arts, but I wasn't looking for evidence to use in a court of law, either. Besides, I already knew the motive at work. Nothing of use inside the taped area except the requisite outline and a pool of blood, I saw after a few seconds. Make that TWO outlines, I noted with a grimace. Andrea's head had been far enough from the rest of her body to get its own outline. Slipping back under the tape, I wandered the area, looking for other evidence. The layer of dust and dirt over the floor was scuffed up beyond all hope of interpretation. Either it was a long fight, or the subsequent investigators didn't think to preserve any of it.
Once I started looking at the walls and concrete support pillars, Mac turned to her partner and said, "Harm, could I speak with Agent Allen alone for a minute? I'll be right out."
He didn't seem to like the idea, but he didn't say anything against it, either. Instead, he threw me a look that was so neutral that it bordered on hostility before turning and stalking out the door.
It shut with a reverberating clang, but I was already looking back at the concrete pillar that had caught my attention. More specifically, I was looking at the nicked and scraped side.
I turned to her for a moment as Mac slowly approached. "So he doesn't know?" I casually asked as I refocused my attention on the scratches. More like gouges, I decided.
"No," she responded with a sigh. She shook off the faraway stare and looked at me again, "I would prefer that it stayed that way."
I nodded agreement and then gestured at the gouges. "She fought, of course. Though it probably didn't take long."
"Why not?" she asked tightly.
I shook my head. "Nothing to do with her being a HER, I assure you. We sparred together on and off a year ago, so I know exactly how good she was. There isn't blood anywhere else in here, so she never hurt her attacker. I'd guess that whoever it was toyed with her before finishing it abruptly when they got bored."
She tilted her head as she processed my comment. "Why do you say he or she toyed with Director Price?"
I waved back at the taped off area. "If you're concerned about losing, you disable your opponent as soon as you can. Hamstring, cut open the sword arm, whatever. Based on the lack of blood elsewhere and the autopsy, neither happened. So either Andrea was toyed with, or her first goof got her beheaded outright. She wasn't very good, but she wasn't THAT bad."
One eyebrow went up. "Pretty confident in your capabilities versus hers, aren't you?"
My mouth opened but closed again without anything coming out. What COULD I say to that?
"Okay, why couldn't they BOTH have been inexperienced?" Mac continued.
Hmm, good point. "Okay, I'll buy that one. It's just that most of my fights have been pretty bloody, so I'm still inclined to believe she was played with."
She shrugged. "It's your investigation. I just wanted to talk to you and make sure that our mutual non-aggression pact was still in force."
I gave her a half bow and said, "I have no wish to fight you, Diane. Go in peace."
She sighed but nodded. "Please, it's Mac. Harm knew Diane. That would only confuse matters."
One eyebrow went up. That was brave but foolhardy. I gave an internal shrug. It was her life.
Seeing my agreement, she turned and strode off after her partner.
Since I was in DC, I also wanted to stop and see two more friends.
I spotted one of them on my way along the sidewalk toward the front entrance of the Hoover building. I'd already walked into his Buzz, so I knew to look for Mulder in the mass of people. I finally spotted him standing near the doors facing another man. I got close enough to hear them at the same time that Mulder spotted me and gave a small smile while he relaxed his tense stance.
" . . . Spooky! What, can't I even talk to you without you zoning out? Your brain get beamed to Mars again?" the other man asked acidly.
Mulder sighed and refocused his attention on his interrogator. "Colton, I don't have time for this. What is it you want from me?"
He stared at Mulder for a moment and then gave an explosive sigh. "I SAID," he reiterated, clearly angry, "that you really should let Dana go to pursue her own life. God knows being stuck with you in the basement isn't doing her career any good."
I'd stopped slightly behind "Colton" and held my peace until now. "Has it occurred to you that Agent Scully is an adult and can make her own decisions?" I mildly asked.
He whirled and gave me a quick look over. "Who the hell are you?"
I didn't bother to offer my hand. "Ryan Allen. Who the hell are you?"
"Agent Tom Colton," he returned arrogantly. "Why do you care what I say to ol' Spooky here?"
I heard Mulder sigh again. I could easily picture his long- suffering look without bothering to look for it. I just raised an eyebrow at Colton and answered, "I'm a friend to Mulder and Dana. I just think it would be common courtesy to treat your fellow agents as adults, Mister Colton."
"AGENT Colton," he returned coldly. He looked at me for a few moments before turning back to Mulder. "Jesus, another of your weird friends. What, these people crawl out of the woodwork when I'm not looking?"
Mulder looked mildly back. "Some people are just worth more effort to be friends with, Colton."
"BAH!" Colton threw his hands up into the air before jamming them into his pockets and stalking off. The fun over, our small audience dispersed quickly.
I looked after Colton. "Very . . . interesting co-workers you have, Mulder," I commented.
"He's an asshole," Mulder returned bluntly. Shaking his head slightly, he stuck a hand out and said, "Hi, Allen. How you doing?"
I shook his hand warmly. "Good, considering. I'm in town for Director Price's funeral. Thought I'd stop in and say 'hi' to you and Dana. She here?" I asked, waving vaguely at the intimidating building.
He nodded and led the way in. Our badges got us past the metal detectors without any fuss. Once a visitor badge was safely clipped to my suit, Mulder led me to a bank of elevators. Safely ensconced into an elevator heading down, he glanced at me out of the corner of his eye. "I thought you quit the Service."
I tilted my head slightly. "Call it a temporary loan," I said, referring to the badge.
One eyebrow went up, but he didn't comment.
The elevator doors opened up, and we walked down a hallway, neither of us even slowing as we walked into Dana's Buzz. Mulder opened the door and led the way in.
Dana's wary face dissolved into a smile as she recognized me. "Ryan!"
She came over for a hug, and I managed a quick peck on her cheek. I looked over at Mulder quickly to see his reaction. Seeing the goad for what it was, he merely smiled at me.
"How are you doing, Ryan?" asked Dana as she waved me into one of the guest chairs.
I shrugged as I seated myself. "As well as can be expected. I'm in town for Director Price's funeral. Just thought I'd stop by and say 'hello' to my two favorite Feds."
Mulder gave me one of his quirky grins, but Dana raised an eyebrow. "I didn't realize you were that close to her."
I nodded slightly. "She's the one who got me the Service position a couple years ago," I replied, not remembering how much I had told them about Andrea.
"Was she Immortal?" asked Mulder directly.
I nodded again.
Both of them grimaced. "Great," muttered Mulder. I certainly agreed with his sarcastic comment. Nobody liked to hear that there was potentially a head hunter running around.
Dana looked up from her frowning contemplation of her desktop. "Why are you telling us this?"
I shrugged. "Like I said, I was in town for the funeral and wanted to say 'hi'." I sighed before continuing, "And I guess I wanted to warn you, too."
They both nodded, almost looking synchronized. They'd been doing that since I met them. I vaguely wondered if they'd taken their relationship any further since the last time I'd seen them.
Someone knocked on the door and then opened it at Mulder's invitation. Assistant Director Skinner walked in with his head hunched down over a file in his hands. "Mulder, I don't know what game you're playing, but if you think you can expense off a -" He stopped his forward motion when he noticed me in the room. He frowned slightly at me for a moment before his face cleared and one hand came out. "Agent Allen isn't it?"
I nodded and stood. Shaking his hand, I greeted him, "Assistant Director Skinner. Nice to see you again, sir."
Skinner looked at his two agents and then back to me. "Don't tell me you're here to borrow them again." I couldn't tell if it was dread, resignation, or glee that I detected in his voice.
One of Mulder's eyebrows crawled its way up under his hairline, and I smiled at Skinner's comment. "No, sir," I answered. "I was just in town and stopped by to say hello." I turned to Mulder and Dana. "I'd better let you two get back to work. I'll call you tomorrow for dinner if you're interested?"
They shared a look. Dana raised an eyebrow and tilted her head slightly. Mulder turned back to me and said, "Sure. Call us here around five-thirty?"
I nodded and turned to leave, but Skinner stopped me. "Hang on, Agent Allen. I'll walk you back out." He turned back to Mulder and dropped the file he'd been carrying onto the desk. "Agent Mulder," he growled, "I'm sure you're well aware of the Bureau's policy regarding 'frivolous' expenses." He glared at Mulder but only received a half smile from the unrepentant agent. Skinner sighed and continued, addressing Dana, "Agent Scully, would you kindly rein in your partner's spending habits?"
"Yes, sir," responded Dana to his retreating back.
Throwing a quick wave back at Mulder and Dana, I hustled after Skinner, catching him in the elevator. Once the door closed, I chuckled and shook my head. Turning to him, I asked, "Do you seriously think that little speech will do ANY good?"
He glanced at me out of the corner of his eye and almost smiled. "Naw, but if I don't call him to the carpet for some of the obvious stuff, they'll wonder what's wrong with me."
Another chuckle escaped as I remembered something else he said. "'I don't know what game you're playing'?" I mimicked. "You have a wicked sense of humor, Watcher Skinner."
He turned to me and grinned outright at that one. "It's one of the few things I can get away with around them. I have to do SOMETHING, or my sense of humor will atrophy."
The elevator door opened and we headed back toward the public entrance. "Too bad about the non-interaction policy," I mused. "Once you retired from this position, I'm sure the three of you could become great friends."
One corner of his mouth quirked, and he stared off into space for a moment. "We already are," he said softly. He focused on me again as we stopped at the sign-out counter. "Take care, Agent Allen."
I shook his hand again. "You too, Assistant Director Skinner."
Television shows and movies usually have funerals and burials taking place on days that are overcast, drizzling, and all around miserable.
The next day wasn't anything of the sort. It was a pleasantly warm, sunny day in early summer when the earthly remains of Deputy Director Andrea Price-O'Day were laid to rest.
I arrived at the graveside service in plenty of time and waited my turn at the checkpoint like everyone else. Like most of the other attendees, I just waved my badge and went in without any trouble. Looking around at the tastefully landscaped area, I casually walked over to the contingent of Service personnel. I only recognized one or two faces, though.
Once the line to get in had been processed, everyone arranged themselves around the priest and waited. He didn't start immediately, much to my surprise. I was starting to wonder what the holdup was when a motorcade quietly pulled into the area. Oh, of course.
Once the armored limousine stopped, President Ryan and his entire family (which included four children now with the birth of another son) stepped out, followed by Treasury Secretary George Winston. The other vehicles disgorged even more Service personnel, and suddenly the graveyard became crowded. Once everyone found a spot to stand, the priest began his eulogy. It was a quiet service, focusing on her selfless service to her country and her young marriage to Pat O'Day. President Ryan came forward and spoke for a few minutes, talking about her as a friend in addition to everything else that she counted as.
As President Ryan was stepping back toward his family, I felt a Buzz come into range. I sighed. Now was NOT the time to deal with an Immortal. On the upside it wouldn't be dangerous. A cemetery was Holy Ground after all. I looked around and spotted Connor MacLeod settling onto the outskirts of the small crowd of non-Service attendees. He saw my scrutiny and nodded to me in recognition.
The priest finished the service quickly after that point, and Andrea was gently lowered into the ground, the only sounds being sniffs from multiple locations and sobs from more than a few.
The President was bundled back into his vehicle, and that whole group quickly left. Most everyone else slowly started drifting back toward the entrance and their cars, except for those who stopped to talk to Pat and his daughter Megan. I made my way over to Connor, stopping to greet my few acquaintances among the Service. Once I got to Connor, it was clear he was toward the end of the line of people waiting to talk to Pat O'Day. We greeted each other with merely a nod and quietly waited in line.
Once we got to the head of the line, Connor stepped forward to talk with O'Day while I hung back.
Pat recognized Connor, and his face became a mask of anger. "Go away, Connor. You can't say anything to me that I want to hear."
Connor opened his mouth to say something, but the blinding hostility and all-encompassing grief on Pat's face kept him silent. Nodding tiredly, Connor turned to leave. O'Day focused that same expression at me, and I just turned away, not saying anything, either.
Once we'd made it ten feet, I said, "Hi, Connor. Glad you could make it."
He gave me a smile that had nothing to do with amusement. "Ryan. How have ye been?"
I shook his hand and just sighed and shook my head in answer. Stopping and looking back toward the devastated O'Day, I asked quietly, "Does it ever get easier?"
He also looked back at Pat silently before eventually sighing out, "Nae, it does nae."
Before we'd made any more progress toward our cars, another Buzz entered our range. Grimacing in aggravation, I scanned around and spotted Mulder walking toward us from the front gates.
As the FBI Agent approached us cautiously, I noticed Connor stiffen slightly once he spotted Mulder. "Peace, Connor," I muttered quietly. "Mulder is a friend." He relaxed slightly but didn't let his guard down, either.
Mulder stopped several feet short and gave me a short nod before returning his attention to Connor. "Mulder," I greeted. "I told you and Dana I'd call this afternoon about supper. Couldn't wait?" I asked, trying to ease the tension.
"Something's come up," he answered, not taking his gaze away from MacLeod. "I need to talk to you, Chessman. Alone," he added pointedly.
"Connor, this is Fox Mulder. Mulder, Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod," I introduced, waving my hand back and forth. They nodded tensely and didn't offer to shake hands. We Immortals are notoriously unfriendly to each other, after all.
Mulder cocked his head. "CONNOR MacLeod." He stressed Connor's first name slightly before turning to me. "So this is the other MacLeod you told us about. Not your teacher?"
I shook my head, and Connor turned a questioning glance to me. I explained, "Mac's name came up in conversation once. Mulder's teacher had heard about the infamous MacLeod prowess with a blade." I grinned a little and continued, "When I mentioned that you had taught Mac, I'm afraid I may have made you into some kind of object of legend."
Mulder shook his head and corrected me, "Not legend. Just cautious respect."
MacLeod nodded, apparently satisfied with that answer. He turned to me and shook my hand. "I gotta get going. I just stopped here in DC to say goodbye to Andrea. Take care of yourself, Ryan."
"Watch your head," I returned. He gave me his quirky grin and headed off, quickly moving out of sight. I turned to Mulder and asked, "What's up?"
He shook his head and moved slowly off in Connor's wake. "Let's get something to eat. This'll take awhile."
We only had to walk a few blocks before a delicatessen provided us with a place to stop and talk. Over a light lunch, he told me what had happened the previous evening. "I went over to Scully's apartment with some files for us to work on last night. When I got there, her car was in her usual spot, but I couldn't feel her anywhere. Concerned, I went to the nearby park at a run. I got there just in time to see a man run her through the chest. My Buzz hit him about one second before the final stroke. I pulled my sword out and threatened to kill him while he was down if he took Scully's Quickening." He paused to take a shuddering breath. "He glanced over in my direction then just kicked Scully over and took off." He paused again, almost embarrassed. "I went to Scully instead of chasing him."
I nodded. I wasn't about to gainsay that choice. "Okay. I hate to sound insensitive, but why are you telling me this?" I asked, though I suspected that I knew the answer I was going to get.
He shifted in his seat. "I want to kill him."
He sighed. "But he's too good for me. He beat my teacher, after all," he said, frustrated. He took a breath and looked me straight in the eye. "Will you kill him?"
My suspicion was correct after all. "You're asking me to hunt," I commented.
He nodded solemnly.
Great, I thought sarcastically. "What makes you think I can beat him?" I asked, stalling for time as my mind raced.
He frowned slightly. "Scully told me that he admitted to killing Price and attacking her just because they're women. Therefore he would be intimidated by a male Immortal. We've seen you fight. You're better than Scully is. At least we both think you are. Which means you're better than I am."
"That doesn't answer the question," I pointed out.
"I don't KNOW you can beat him," he admitted.
"Wonderful," I growled. "So will you apologize to my widow if it comes to that?" I asked acidly.
He grimaced and looked down. He realized what he was asking of me but wasn't backing down either. "If you don't kill him," he began in a whisper, "then he'll kill Dana." He sighed and continued in an even quieter voice, "I can't live if that happens."
Aw, hell. He'd called her "Dana". I tried one last time, "You realize that Dana will try to kill the both of us if she finds out about this."
His expression brightened considerably. "So you'll do it?"
I sighed as I resigned myself to the situation. "You help me, and I'll TRY," I emphasized. "What's he look like?"
Mulder shook his head. "I didn't get a good look at him. Six one and solidly built, but beyond that, I have no idea. I'll try to get a better description from Scully to give to you, though."
I nodded absently as I thought through what I knew so far between what Mulder had told me and the report that Agent Kessler had given me. "Why do you think he'd be intimidated by a male Immortal?"
He shrugged as he idly used a french fry to draw a large headed alien on his plate out of ketchup. "It fits the profile. He's attacked at least two female Immortals and admitted that he targeted them BECAUSE they were female."
"Did he give a name?" Might as well try the easy route.
"Dan Axemon, and no I didn't find anything about him from the FBI database before you ask. Or any of my other contacts," he added after a moment.
"So I have no way of finding him?" I summarized the important point I was getting to.
He mutely shook his head after a few seconds of thought. I noticed that he had dropped a thin, jagged fry down in the alien's hand, completing the picture by giving it a sword.
I rolled my eyes and leaned back. "So what exactly do you expect me to do, Mulder?"
"I don't KNOW!" he exclaimed, exasperated. Fortunately, he had the wisdom to keep his voice down. He took a breath and continued more calmly, "I don't know what to do now."
"Where'd he find Dana?"
"He came to her apartment."
"Is that the first that she noticed him?"
He nodded, beginning to draw a second figure on his plate.
I had no way of knowing where he spotted Dana or Andrea then. After several seconds of thought, I couldn't think of anything else to do. "If I run into him on my own, I'll try to stop him, but I can't promise anything, Mulder."
He nodded morosely, continuing to stare at his plate as his hand kept the artwork going. A tall human took shape.
When he dropped a bigger "sword" in the human's hand, I chuckled.
He looked up at me with a questioning expression.
I waved at his plate and commented, "I wonder what that says about your subconscious, Agent Mulder."
He looked down at the plate, apparently really seeing it for the first time. His mouth twisted into a sardonic grin and he looked back up at me. "I'm a psychologist myself, and I don't even WANT to try to analyze this one." He took one of his remaining fries and deliberately smeared both figures. Standing, he pulled enough money out of his pocket to cover lunch and dropped it onto the table. He stuffed his hands back into his coat pockets and looked down at me. "Thanks for listening, Chessman. Keep me in the loop?"
I nodded, and he turned on his heel and strode out the door, leaving me staring at blurred drawings and wondering how to find Dan Axemon.
In frustration I headed back to the warehouse where Andrea had died, hoping that there would be a useful clue to find that I'd missed the first time around.
I was somewhat surprised to find a red Corvette parked out front. Wondering idly who it would be, I closed my car door and headed toward the warehouse.
I stopped dead in my tracks when I felt two Buzzes. One was Diane, and the other was just over one hundred, with several weak heads to their credit. One hand on my wakizashi, I cautiously approached the door.
Two sharp cracks from a gun inside the warehouse caused me to duck to the side of the door and move my hand to the gun instead. A moment later I heard a male voice cry, "Mac!" Jumping back into motion, I kicked in the door to find a mess.
The far door was just closing on a rapidly retreating figure in a black trench coat. His Buzz faded a few seconds later.
I focused on the other occupants of the room and winced. Diane was lying on the floor, a short sword lying by her side. Her hands were over a bloody wound in her chest and stomach that made sucking sounds as she tried to breath. Commander Rabb had pulled Diane's head over to his lap and was smoothing her hair back with one hand. I doubt he even noticed the trickle of blood coming from a gash above his left eye.
"Mac," whispered Rabb. The pure anguish in that voice caused a lump to form in my throat instantly.
"It's okay," she whispered back. She looked up at me as I holstered my gun. "Tell him," she instructed me, followed by a hacking cough.
One eyebrow rose. "How much?"
"What?" asked Rabb, totally confused.
"Everything," answered Diane after her coughing fit ended. She looked up at Rabb and tried to smile, but a spasm of pain flashed across her face. When she schooled her features again, she raised one bloody hand up to Rabb's face and said, "Listen to Ryan, Harm."
"Sarah," whispered Rabb brokenly, "I . . . I love you. Don't leave me," he finished in a hoarse whisper.
She smiled then. Another flash of pain and her body relaxed all at once. Her Buzz faded out moments later.
"Sarah?" asked Rabb. Once it was obvious she wasn't going to respond, he broke down completely. "No! Don't leave me!" he cried, leaning forward and burying his face into her hair.
I quietly came up behind him and laid one hand on his shoulder. "She isn't leaving you, Harm." I hoped he would react well to my using his first name.
It took a few seconds, but he finally responded to me. Pulling his head up to me, he brokenly asked, "What?"
"She won't leave you."
He continued to look up at me, his tear streaked eyes reflecting a mix of disbelief and wild hope.
I sighed. She did ask me to tell him. "She WILL wake up soon. She is Immortal."
He just kept staring at me, clearly not knowing what to make of my words.
Shaking my head in frustration, I crossed around Diane's body so that I was facing him and squatted down a few feet away from them. I reached into my coat and drew my knife, slowly enough not to panic the man in front of me. I showed him the knife and my bare right hand. Gritting my teeth, I slashed my right palm deep enough for blood to begin dripping immediately. I let my hand fall toward the ground so the blood would drip off my fingers onto the floor, keeping my palm facing Rabb the entire time. Placing my knife on the ground, I reached my left hand back into the coat for a clean handkerchief. Once my hand stopped bleeding, I wiped enough blood away for Rabb to see the unbroken skin underneath. "Immortal," I repeated, looking into his incredulous expression. Heedless of the dirt on the ground, I took a seat next to Diane's head. I calmly wiped the blood from my knife and hand before folding the handkerchief and putting everything away. Only then did I look at Rabb again.
He was staring at me, mouth hanging slightly open.
"Like I said," I began conversationally, "she's Immortal. She should be waking up momentarily."
He slowly shook his head, not taking his eyes from me.
I just shrugged and looked down at Diane. In addition to a horizontal cut across her stomach, there were two bullet holes in her stomach and lower chest. Axemon apparently didn't want to kill her outright but wanted her to suffer some. I frowned in anger at the sadistic bastard.
Diane's growing Buzz preceded her resurrection by about two seconds. Her eyes snapped open, staring unseeingly upward. Her sudden, sharp intake of breath startled Rabb. He jumped away from her, spilling her off his lap. Since I'd been expecting just that reaction, I was there to catch her head before it came slamming back into the ground. This left me leaning half over her, arm under her head, looking like I was nearly embracing her. After a shuddering breath, her mind apparently started working again, and an arm came rocketing straight at my chest. Since I was also expecting that one, my other arm was still free to block that blow. "Calm down," I said. "I'm not an enemy." After those first few seconds of confusion and panic, Diane stopped struggling. Seeing that she recognized me, I helped her lean forward as she began coughing, clearing the remaining blood out of her lungs. Once she was moving under her own power, I stood and fished my remaining clean handkerchief out of my pocket and dropped it onto her lap. Looking up at me gratefully, she began cleaning her hands. While she was otherwise occupied, I looked over at Rabb again. He'd backed several feet away and was staring at Diane in open astonishment.
Once she'd finished cleaning herself to some degree, Diane looked up at Rabb and smiled sadly at his look. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner, Harm," she murmured.
"Who . . . What are you?" asked an incredulous Rabb.
"Immortal," I answered. "I already told you that. Most injuries will heal in a matter of minutes, including fatal bullet wounds," I waved at Diane.
Rabb stared back and forth between us mutely.
Getting to her feet with a helpful hand from me, Diane leaned forward again and retrieved her short sword and smoothly put it away somewhere under her cut and stained uniform jacket. Handing my now bloody handkerchief back to me, she politely thanked me and then turned back to her partner.
"Harm," she began, taking one step toward him.
He flinched and took a step backward, almost reflexively.
She stopped and let her hand fall to her side. Her eyes slowly teared up and she said, "A few minutes ago you said that you loved me. What I never said to you is that I've loved you for almost fifteen years now."
He frowned slightly. "Fifteen years? We met seven years ago, Mac."
She smiled sadly and shook her head slightly. "You and I met in the Academy, Harm. Though my name was Diane Schonke at the time."
His jaw fell open. Again.
Her smile brightened slightly at his expression. "I know you investigated my first death, so I don't need to tell you about it. I woke up in the Bethesda morgue hours later, to find a kind man explaining Immortality to me." She smiled at the memory before continuing, "You know him as Matthew O'Hara. He took me to Red Rock Mesa for my Immortal training. When I finished my training, he helped me manufacture the identity of Major Sarah MacKenzie, who you met seven years ago."
Rabb's expression was a study in amazement, but hope was beginning to show up. He took a hesitant step forward, one hand reaching up to gingerly touch her cheek. "Diane?" He chuckled to himself. "Or is it Mac?"
She smiled, apparently truly happy with his reaction. "Either way, Flyboy."
I reached into a pocket and pulled out one of my business cards. Clearing my throat slightly, I stepped forward. "I assume you two are okay from here?" I asked in amusement.
Rabb was still staring at his partner in wonder, but Diane turned to me. "Yes, I think so."
I handed her the card. "Call me later. I have my cell phone with me. I'm trying to track the man who attacked you." She nodded and slipped the card into a pocket.
I turned and headed toward the door.
"What about . . . Mic . . . You . . . Diane?!"
"Yes, Harm," came her answer through a giggle.
His reply was lost as I shut the door behind me.
I met Dana and Mulder that evening as planned at a Georgetown restaurant. I'd had another quick nap that afternoon, so my body was almost to a local daylight schedule.
Dana had been in a withdrawn mood all evening, only coming out of her self-imposed shell to dispute Mulder's wild theories regarding the origins of Immortals. My personal favorite theory of his was that Immortals were products of alien experimentation to develop longer lived humans.
I was just telling them about my own pet theory of Immortals being the result of "leakage" from unleashed Quickenings when a cell phone chirped. All three of us checked our own phones. "Mine," I announced. "Hello?" I answered into the receiver.
"Ryan, it's Mac, err, Diane."
I brightened. "Hi! How'd everything go today?"
"Great," she responded with a dreamy sigh.
I bit back the laughter. I'm afraid my face turned purple, but at least Diane didn't hear my reaction. "Thanks for calling," I continued when I was sure of my voice again. "Could we meet and you tell me about the guy who attacked you?"
Both Mulder and Dana perked right up at hearing that.
"Sure," answered Diane. "When and where?"
"Tonight if possible," I answered. "I need to stop this guy before he attacks anyone else. I'm in Georgetown at the moment."
"Harm and I are in the area. Where are you?"
"We'll be there in ten," Diane answered. She disconnected before I had a chance to comment.
I hit the disconnect button on the phone with a sigh. "We'll be having company within ten minutes," I announced to my two companions.
"Who?" asked Mulder, taking a sip of water.
"Diane Schonke and her JAG partner, Harmon Rabb."
They both perked up again, I noticed. "Someone attacked Sarah?" asked Dana.
I rapidly reviewed my conversation and concluded that I didn't mention Diane's current name. "You know her?"
"Them," Mulder corrected. "We've bumped into them in a few investigations." He turned to Dana and said, "If she was attacked, you need to tell Ryan as well."
I carefully hid my knowledge of what he was talking about behind a quizzical expression.
She stared at him for a moment before turning to me with a sigh. "I was attacked last night by someone who introduced himself as Dan Axemon."
I nodded slowly. "Three confirmed attacks on female Immortals," I mused. Changing my mind, I waved it off immediately. "We'll discuss it when Diane arrives." I cocked my head at them. "Assuming there aren't any bad feelings between the four of you."
They both shook their heads. Mulder answered, "All three of us are as interested in playing the Game as we are in having root canals."
I nodded, silently wondering what that said about me. I was, after all, willing to hunt this guy. I flagged down our waitress and informed her that two more people would be joining us momentarily and that we'd like our suppers held until their meals were ready, assuming they ordered anything.
The next five minutes passed in idle chatter before Diane's Buzz entered our range. All three of us tensed, and I stood politely once I identified it. Diane and Rabb (in civilian clothes) threaded their way through the dining area until they stopped at our table. Everyone smiled politely at each other. No hostility, I noted, but they weren't friends, either. No matter.
Once Diane and Rabb ordered, I addressed myself to the two of them, "Dana just told me she was attacked last night. That makes three confirmed attacks on Immortal women in less than a week, one which killed Andrea Price. Anybody willing to call that circumstance?"
The three Immortals shook their head, but Rabb looked between me, Dana, and Mulder. Guessing what his concern was, I turned to Dana and said, "We'd better forgive Commander Rabb for his hesitancy. He only learned about Immortals recently and rather abruptly."
She and Mulder both nodded. Rabb looked at me for a moment and then gave a self-deprecating grin. Tenderly touching a Band-Aid on his forehead, he added, "And painfully."
Dana immediately stood and crossed around the table to him. He held up a hand, but she waved it off, stating, "I've been a doctor since well before your grandfather was born, Commander. Just let me have a look."
He looked at her strangely before commenting, "You don't look any older than I am."
Diane touched his arm and said softly, "Remember that Immortals don't age, Harm. If she says she's older, believe her."
He nodded shortly and let Dana gingerly pull back the bandage and look over his wound. Meanwhile Harm looked over at Mulder with a raised eyebrow. Mulder gazed back at him calmly before nodding subtly.
"You're the only mortal at the table, Commander Rabb," I confirmed as Dana finished checking him and seated herself again.
He looked at the four of us and took a calming breath. "I AM new at this." He smiled at Diane and continued softly to her, "This still feels like one of my infamous metaphysical moments, but I'm learning." He focused on me again and added, "Please call me Harm, Agent Allen."
I nodded. "It's Ryan Chessman, actually. Call me Ryan." That bit of tension disposed of, I steered us back to the discussion. "Five days ago an unknown Immortal Challenged and killed Andrea Price. Last night someone named Dan Axemon attacked Dana here," I waved at the petite redhead. "Then this afternoon someone went after Diane." I stopped and turned to her. "Want me to call you Diane, Mac, or what?"
She laughed. "Diane's fine, but better call me Mac if we're in front of anyone else."
Most of us nodded, and I continued, "I hope that if we combine information, I can hunt this guy down."
Harm looked confused. "I applaud the goal, but why you? Why don't you just turn him over to the police?"
Diane answered, "Then throw him into jail for fifty years? Someone would notice he doesn't age, and then we'd all be exposed."
I heard a muffled snicker from Mulder's direction as I successfully stifled my own smile. Dana poked Mulder in the ribs. "I don't want to hear a single comment about exposing Diane or myself, Mulder."
He managed to look wounded.
Diane smiled, and Harm chuckled. Dana said to the rest of us, "You'll have to excuse his sense of humor. It's closer to the gutter than the rest of us civilized individuals."
"A dirty mind is a terrible thing to waste," quipped Mulder.
Harm and I had to hide smiles behind our hands, but Diane and Dana turned death glares upon him. He just smiled benignly back.
"Getting back to the discussion," I interjected before it broke out into a fight, "we can't turn Axemon in, Harm. The only thing you can do about a hunter in town is run, drive him out, or take him down."
He stared at me. "You're talking about killing him."
I stared coldly back. "Yes, I am."
We locked eyes for a few moments before Diane's hand found his arm again. "This is the way we live, Harm," she said quietly. "Don't be mad at Ryan for that. I for one am glad that he's willing to risk his life to help me."
Harm's gaze softened. "Okay, I'll buy that, but why you?"
"Simple," answered Mulder. "He's the best fighter among the four of us."
Rabb cocked his head at me before turning to Mulder. "Why do you say that?"
Dana answered, "Axemon beat me and presumably beat Diane. I've seen Ryan fight. He's a lot better than I am." Harm turned to Mulder, but Dana cut off the question before it came. "Mulder is my student and still isn't finished with his training. If anyone here can stop Axemon, it's Ryan."
Harm absorbed that silently for a moment before looking at me again. "Not that I don't appreciate your efforts to help protect Sarah -" he cut himself off and corrected, "Diane, but why do this? What do you get out of it?"
I sighed and leaned back in my chair. "Andrea Price was a friend. Dana is a friend. Diane . . ." I trailed off for a moment and smiled at her before continuing, "Diane isn't a friend yet, but she could be. I guess I just have too much of my teacher in me. I'm protective to a fault. I just can't stand the thought of a hunter running loose if I can stop him."
Harm stared at me silently for a few seconds before nodding. "Am I correct in assuming that you might be killed doing this?"
Harm shrugged. "Why not put a bullet into him, then? Hell," he added, "I'LL put a bullet into him, and then you tell me how to finish him off."
Diane looked shocked at the suggestion. Dana and Mulder just looked pained. "It's a matter of honor," I answered. "Yes, that would work, but I refuse to use dirty methods to win."
"What if he cheats?" Harm persisted.
I smiled, but it didn't reach my eyes. "Just because I don't use dirty tricks regularly doesn't mean I don't know any. I can take care of myself."
Harm opened his mouth again, but Dana cut him off. "Leave it, Commander. Ryan is quite capable of handling himself in a fight."
He sat back, clearly not happy with the answers, but also clearly leaving the topic alone.
The tense silence was cut by Mulder. "If we get all the information onto the table, maybe we can predict Axemon's next move."
I nodded, slowly relaxing the tense set of my shoulders. "Very little is known about the attack on Andrea. She simply never made it home from work that evening. Phone records don't show any unexplained calls to her home, cell, or office. She left the building for lunch, and her administrative assistant stated that she acted 'tense' all afternoon. I'd assume she received a Challenge during lunch, set for that evening."
Everyone nodded, and Dana took up the story with her experience. "Last night at about eight thirty a six foot tall, brown hair, brown eyes, one hundred sixty pound, Caucasian male showed up at my door." That description showed her FBI training, I mused with an inward smile. "I'd never met him before, but he directly Challenged me." She frowned slightly, staring at her water glass before continuing, "I couldn't very well escape it. We took it to a park behind my apartment building. He followed the Rules but continually threw graphic sexual and derogatory comments at me during the fight. He admitted to having killed Director Price and claimed that he enjoyed the 'feel' of a female Quickening." She shuddered and continued, "He beat me. Mulder showed up at the last moment and saved my life." She smiled at him, and he smiled back slightly.
"I threatened to take his head if he took Scully's. He took off," added Mulder.
"Take his head?" asked Harm.
"Immortals die permanently by decapitation," reminded Diane. "Remember how Director Price died."
We could just about see the light bulb go on above his head. "That's why you had a sword on you," he said to Diane.
She nodded. "That's why I always DO have a sword on me, yes."
He looked at her outfit. Between the casual blouse and jeans, it was hard to believe she was armed with more than a pocket knife. "Right now?" he asked with a slight grin and raised eyebrow.
"You can frisk her later," interjected Mulder with a wider grin.
Harm and Diane both blushed, but Diane shot back, "Don't tell me you haven't frisked your partner for the same reason, Agent Mulder."
Mulder's expression shifted subtly to a self-satisfied smirk. Dana blushed faintly.
Yep, they definitely have furthered their relationship, I noted to myself. "Hey," I objected in mock anger, "I'm feeling left out since I don't have a partner to frisk."
"You've got your own cute redhead to cuddle, Chessman," returned Mulder.
"Hey!" objected Dana. She immediately blushed as she realized what she had revealed by that reaction.
The rest of us chuckled.
Diane picked up the thread before the conversation degenerated further. "My fight went much like Agent Scully's. I had drug Harm back to the warehouse, looking for something. I'm not even sure what I was looking for, honestly. Anyway, I felt someone approach. I thought it was you, Ryan, so I wasn't terribly worried. He walked in with his gun out." She turned a chiding look onto her partner and continued, "Harm tried to rush him and got his head cracked open for his troubles." The Commander in question had a sheepish grin on his face by this time. "Once Harm was down, Axemon introduced himself and Challenged me. Fortunately, he put the gun away first. Just like during Agent Scully's fight, he threw out comments that were blatantly sexist. Also like that fight, he had me beat before Ryan really did show up. Once we both felt him, he pulled his gun back out and shot me before bolting for the door."
I nodded thoughtfully. "I didn't see his face, so he probably didn't see me. Therefore he doesn't know what I look like. Maybe I can lure him in," I mused out loud.
"That still doesn't explain how he identified all three women," pointed out Mulder.
I was saved from commenting by our waitress arriving with our meals. As we ate, we tried to backtrack how he was identifying his victims. The only common factor that we could find to the three days was that both Diane and Dana (and presumably Andrea) had felt an Immortal when they were walking through the Mall. Since the Buzz faded almost immediately, neither Dana nor Diane had been concerned at the time.
Based on everything I'd been told, a plan began to form.
Getting the women's grudging agreement to stay out of sight at least for a few days, the rest of the evening was spent in friendly chatter.
Jennifer stared at me for a long moment the next afternoon before commenting, "You're serious, aren't you?"
I nodded. "Yep."
She sighed. "Explain to me WHY you're going to fight him."
"He killed Andrea and tried to kill Dana and Diane."
She thought about it for a second and asked in a dangerous tone, "He targets women specifically you said?"
I nodded again. "Hence the plan."
"Then WHY shouldn't I tear his heart out myself?" she wanted to know.
I frowned at her. "In spite of your justified feminine anger, this IS an Immortal. I don't poke my nose into vampire affairs, you don't poke yours into Immortal fights, remember?"
She cocked her head at me. "Then why am I part of this plan?"
Damn, she had me there. "Because I'm asking you politely?" I asked hopefully.
A hint of a smirk appeared, and she folded her arms across her chest and tried to look haughty and arrogant. "Nice try, but not good enough."
I thought about it a little more before offering, "Because you'll enjoy watching me dice him into little pieces?"
She grinned and sauntered up to me. "I knew there was a good reason." She began playing absently with my shirt collar with one hand, but her other was drifting a great deal lower. "You know, it's a couple hours yet until sunset," she commented conversationally.
"Hmm," I tried to come up with a witty remark, but I could feel my IQ dropping with every passing moment. "Whatever shall we do?" I asked with what was left of my ability for intelligent speech.
"Oh, I have a few ideas."
She did, too.
After sunset, Jennifer and I were walking along the Mall. Despite its name, it wasn't so much a shopping place as it was a pedestrian area. I was hoping he'd still be trawling his same hunting ground. With a little luck, we could snare him in his own backyard.
We talked and wandered for nearly an hour before I felt an Immortal. Knowing immediately it was the same signature as the guy I'd chased away from Diane, I whispered, "He's nearby." I didn't even turn toward Jennifer. Her hearing was more than adequate to the task, and we didn't want him paying any attention to me. In fact I forced myself to not react to the Buzz at all. Going with the plan we'd worked out earlier that afternoon, Jennifer stiffened in place and started scanning around almost frantically.
All in all, she looked the part of a panicky, young, FEMALE Immortal.
Which was exactly the point.
The Buzz faded seconds later. "He's gone," I immediately conveyed.
Jennifer visibly relaxed and leaned over to whisper, "How'm I doing, coach?"
I laughed and pulled her in a little closer. What'd I ever do to deserve this woman?
She led me to the end of the walkway we were currently on and then pulled me gently toward a quieter area. A mile later we were in a much more run down section of the city that had been almost deserted by the local population. Smiling, she pulled me into a deserted alleyway, conveying the image of a semi-public seduction about to occur. We stopped halfway down toward the bricked dead-end of the alley and stayed in the middle of the open space.
We didn't have to wait very long.
"He's back," I whispered as I nibbled my way up her neck.
Still going according to the script we'd come up with, she pushed me toward one wall of the alley and fell back toward the other, frantically digging around in her coat.
"Ah, ah, miss. You really don't want to do that." I got my first look at Dan Axemon as he stepped toward us, gun in one hand pointed at Jen. I vaguely noticed he fit Dana's description almost perfectly. That meant that he had a few inches of reach over me, but he probably wasn't much stronger.
Jen froze in place, doing a wonderful job of looking like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car.
Once he advanced far enough that he couldn't cover both of us, I snapped my gun up from where I'd had it palmed since entering the alley. "I really wouldn't do that if I were you," I suggested calmly.
His eyes flashed over to me for a moment, taking in my gun before his attention returned to Jennifer. "You have no place here, mortal. Run away while you can," he returned arrogantly.
Once my gun had appeared, Jennifer had relaxed, folding her hands before her. At his words, we both chuckled. She commented, "You're assuming he's mortal."
His look of confusion was priceless.
"Besides, I'm not about to leave you alone with my wife. She'd enjoy killing you too much. I plan on having that privilege," I added.
Fear started to work its way onto his face. "If you shoot me, I'll kill her."
"I strongly doubt that. Besides, if you DO shoot her, I'll simply put a bullet into your skull and take your head before you get back up."
He digested that threat for a second before whirling and aiming at me. "Then why shouldn't I shove this gun up your ass and pull the trigger?"
I smiled, but it didn't have any warmth or humor to it. "As graphic as that image is, I still don't think it's a good idea. If you shoot me, she'll tear your throat out."
While I'd held his attention, Jen had been moving slowly forward. At my last words, she darted forward with all the speed available to her vampire strength and reflexes.
Axemon lost his gun before he knew she was anywhere nearby.
He stared at his empty hand before turning his gaze back to Jen. She was back in the same place he'd held her at gunpoint only moments before. She held his gun out for inspection. "Magic," she commented with a predatory grin.
His arm fell to his side, and his face drained of all color before turning back to me. "You're going to let your woman fight for you?" he asked, practically in a sneer.
I knew it was all bluster, so I smiled coldly back. "You'd enjoy that too much. You DO enjoy fighting women after all." I snapped on the safety and tossed Jennifer my gun. She fielded it smoothly and pocketed it but kept his gun out and ready. What I was doing was probably completely insane. I had the chance to just shoot and kill him, but I was voluntarily going with my swords instead. My conscience wouldn't allow any other choice, though. I pulled out my blades and commented, "You know, I don't think you could handle fighting a male Immortal."
His face drained of what little color it had, even though I would have sworn it wasn't possible. He reached into his coat and retrieved a wakizashi and held it up in a guard position, trying to keep an eye on both of us. He began slowly backing out of the alley.
"No, no," commented Jennifer. "Back in here." She held the gun up and motioned for him to come back in. I crossed the alley to her side and she waved him past us, more toward the dead end. Once he was well past us, I headed back toward the center of the alley, blocking him in.
He stopped and looked back and forth between us. "You know," he commented to me, "using mortals to help is against the Rules."
I sighed. "So is using a gun," I pointed out. "Besides, she won't interfere with the Challenge. She just helped me set this fight up. It'll be fair."
"Not that you deserve it," commented Jen.
He looked indignant. "What do you mean?"
"Andrea Price, Dana Scully, and Diane Schonke," I answered.
He shrugged. "They are all Immortal." He grinned suddenly and added, "Or were at any rate. What's the problem?"
She threw him a disgusted look and glanced at me for direction. I tilted my head back out of the alleyway. "Go on. I'll see you later."
She gave him one last venomous glare and stalked off. I turned back to him. "I'm Ryan Chessman. I Challenge you in vengeance for Andrea Price." It all sounded very arrogant and formal, but I wanted to follow the forms on this one.
He nodded and saluted me with his blade. "Dan Axemon. There can be only one."
We started trading blows, starting out slowly and gradually learning the other's defenses. One particularly cunning move almost made it past my sword, and he laughed. "Almost got you, bitch." His face immediately twisted weirdly as he registered what he had just said.
I laughed at him. "Too used to using words to distract your opponent, Danny?"
He snarled and jumped back at me in a daringly offensive series. He didn't come close to scoring a hit, though.
Once I had finished beating him back, I said, "You know something? It just occurred to me WHY you attack women exclusively, Danny boy. It's probably an attempt to make up for some less than manly attribute you may have."
He howled and came at me in a rage. With all his energy focused on the offensive, he left himself wide open to my knife. With my sword blocking his own flailing wakizashi, I stuck my knife into the side of his chest, no doubt puncturing a lung.
He fell back, grimacing in pain and holding his left arm against his bleeding wound. I stalked back in. "As fun as it may be to toy with you the way you did with Andrea, I just don't want to deal with it." Since he was already seriously wounded, it took only seconds more before I hamstrung him. Without another word, a single slice of my wakizashi finished the fight.
Jen reappeared at the mouth of the alley as the white mist curled toward me.
She was still calmly watching several minutes later when I stumbled back to my feet after absorbing enough energy to put a small thunderstorm to shame.
I leaned against the wall beside her and stiffly managed to pull a cloth out of my pocket to clean both swords and my knife. Tucking everything away, I looked up at Jennifer to find her offering both guns back to me. Putting those away as well, she tilted her head back the way we'd come and said, "Go back to the hotel. I'll meet you there in a while. I'll take care of Axemon."
Too drained to argue, I just nodded and started walking.
Once back to the Mall, I flagged down a taxi. The cabby had to wake me up when we reached the hotel five minutes later.
Jen woke me up just before dawn the next morning, crawling into bed and snuggling in next to me.
"Hey," I muttered, partially awake.
"Hi," she greeted quietly. "Go back to sleep."
I shook my head. "Can't. Everyone I need to talk to will be on a daylight schedule. Unless you'd like to stay longer, we can go home tonight."
She sat up, apparently resigned to seeing me out this morning. "Sounds good to me."
Standing up and stretching the kinks out of my back and neck, something occurred to me. Glancing over at Jennifer who was quietly flipping through the channels on the television, I asked, "You took care of Axemon?"
She nodded without looking over at me.
"Dare I ask how?" How did that line about curiosity and the cat go?
She looked over at me and gave me an adorable smile that was both mischievous and cunning. "You really don't want to know."
One eyebrow went up.
She relented. "Didn't you ever wonder where all the blood for the Community comes from?"
The eyebrow came down. So did my jaw.
"Don't worry," she added. "They don't know where the blood came from. Nobody will question it."
"But my Watcher . . ." I objected. Unless the Immortal cleaned up his own mess, the Watchers did so for him. At least two Watchers knew about the fight and would have expected to take care of the body since I hadn't done so. Come to think of it, they must not have had a chance to clean up Andrea's body in time. Otherwise none of this would have happened.
"Your Watcher and I have an agreement, Ryan," she answered soothingly. "He got the other Watcher out of the area before I did anything with Axemon."
"You KNOW my Watcher?" I nearly exploded.
She shrugged. "Sure. Daniel introduced us."
I calmed down immediately. That part of it made sense at least. Aaron Grey's Watcher knew about vampires (seeing as how Aaron's wife Terry was a vampire herself), and so would have had to make sure my Watcher did as well. Daniel would have introduced him to Jen. It was safer for all concerned that way. I nodded slowly as everything settled in place. "It's nice to have some guardian angels around," I smiled fondly at my wife.
One of her eyebrows came up. "As a member of the undead," she said dryly, "I would hardly qualify as an angel. I would think that Watchers are a tad too voyeuristic to count, either."
I jumped back down on the bed and pulled her into a hug. "Love ya anyway," I said.
Her responding kiss assured me the feelings were mutual.
Eight o'clock found me walking in the front door of the Hoover building. Once past the metal detectors, I headed straight for the elevators. Halfway there, I stopped at feeling Dana's Buzz. Since it was still early, I followed the crowds as they entered the cafeteria for liquid caffeine and assorted other breakfast items. Sure enough, Dana was in there, standing calmly in line with Tom Colton right behind her.
She spotted me and relaxed as I got close enough to hear what Colton was saying, " . . . telling you, Dana, you really want to get away from him. He's bad news."
I sighed. Christ, not again. "Mister Colton, I do believe we had this conversation two days ago," I said as pleasantly as I could under the circumstances.
His head snapped up and twisted into a grimace once he saw me. "You again? Look, asshole, I told you it was AGENT Colton. Besides, why the hell do you care?"
All traces of amusement fled from my expression. "I told you, AGENT," I sneered at his title, "that I'm a friend to Dana and Mulder. I'm asking you politely to leave them the hell alone. They can make their own decisions without YOUR input."
He looked like he was about to explode. He opened his mouth but was interrupted by another voice.
"Is there a problem here?" asked AD Skinner as he appeared at the edge of the crowd that was suddenly surrounding us.
Colton nearly snapped to attention. "Sir, I was just having a discussion with this," he looked at me in disgust before turning his attention back to Skinner, "CIVILIAN. Permission to escort him out of the building, sir?" It was clear he wanted nothing more than to beat the tar out of me.
Skinner looked from him to me to Dana whom I was subtly standing in front of. He turned back to Colton and said, "First, this gentleman is SPECIAL AGENT Ryan Allen of the Secret Service." Colton's smirk evaporated instantly. "Secondly," continued Skinner, addressing the crowd, "fifty bucks on Allen."
Dana and I looked at him in amazement. So did a few of the assembled agents before bets began flying. Colton merely looked pissed at the whole situation.
I addressed Skinner, "I can't promise not to draw blood."
Skinner nodded just before Colton's fist came flying at me. Since I wasn't expecting it, it came crashing into my jaw, making me stumble back a step and drop to one knee. I looked up at Colton who was trembling in rage. Maybe it was the lack of a good night's sleep, or the stressful couple of days I'd had, but my next action should have been to walk away. Instead, I stated calmly, "Leave now or you won't leave this room under your own power."
"Get up and fight me like a man!"
Your funeral, idiot.
The assorted spectators quickly backed off, forming a ring around us. I stood and assumed a basic defensive posture.
"Don't hurt him too badly, Ryan," called Dana.
Colton snarled and threw a quick series of punches at my head and chest. I easily blocked them all, not even trying to go on the offensive. Frustrated, he threw a kick at me. I backed a half step and caught the foot as it was at its full extension. It nearly broke several bones in my hand to do so, but I wasn't terribly worried about it. Instead of moving forward or backward and tipping him over, I just lifted his foot up, forcing him to stop in place to hold his balance. His arms couldn't reach me, and he couldn't move for fear of falling and cracking his head on the hard floor. He contented himself with glaring at me.
I slowly walked a circle around him. Since I was still holding his foot, it forced him to awkwardly hop and twist around on his other foot, fighting for balance the entire way. His expression became gradually darker and angrier. It didn't help that I offered the crowd, "Anybody want to take a shot at him?" Several agents giggled or chuckled. Dana frowned disapprovingly at me. Skinner grinned widely.
Finally growing tired of this, I dropped his leg. I couldn't help one last dig, so I pulled off his shoe as his foot was falling. Once he was standing again, I took a few steps back and tossed his shoe back. "You dropped something," I casually remarked.
He caught it and continued to glare at me as the crowd cheered and laughed. He slowly brought his foot up to slip the shoe back on. Once the foot was back on the ground, he rushed at me, hands extended to try some sort of grappling or wrestling move. A quick series of blocks, shoves, and twists later, we paused again. This time, his back was parallel to the floor, precariously balanced on my bent right knee. I was kneeling on my left leg, my left hand had his right wrist trapped far to the side, and my right hand had a fist full of his tie. His left arm was to the side in a futile attempt to balance himself, his feet barely touching the floor. All in all, I clearly had him at my mercy. The crowd went silent.
Leaning forward and softly whispering in his ear, I said, "You leave Dana Scully, Fox Mulder, and myself the hell alone. If you bother any of us again, I'll tear your heart out, the consequences be damned. Do we understand each other?" I asked. His expression looked like enough to melt the floor we were on, but he gave a barely perceptible nod. I nodded back and continued, "Now get out of here before you get yourself hurt, AGENT." Smoothly standing and pulling him along with me by his tie and wrist, I got both of us upright again. Quickly backing off a couple steps, I folded my hands in front of me and waited for his reaction.
The crowd was nearly holding its breath by this time.
His hands fisted, his face went red, and his jaw clenched.
I braced myself, expecting the situation to get ugly in an awful hurry.
In a surprising fit of self preservation, he spun on his heel and stalked out of the room, roughly brushing past the co-workers who were in his path.
The room broke into cheers and applause, a decent amount of money changing hands. I stayed where I was, several male agents congratulating me, thumping me on the back, or shaking my hand. A few female agents also congratulated me, a couple gave me pecks on the cheek, and one even slipped her phone number into my hand.
The cafeteria gradually emptied until it was just Skinner, Dana, and myself left. Even the cashier was nowhere to be seen. Dana put down the two cups of coffee she'd been holding the entire time and walked up to me. Putting one hand on my chest, she said softly, "I would like to thank you." Her other hand snaked to the back of my neck and pulled me down into a mind-blowing kiss. After several seconds, she pulled back and smiled at me. Wiping a smear of lipstick off of the corner of my mouth (which was hanging open), she winked at me. Turning on her heel, she walked back to where she'd left the coffee, picked them up and headed toward the door without another word.
Before she reached the exit, Mulder's Buzz approached, followed closely by Mulder himself as he came flying into the room. He stopped at finding his partner standing in front of him, me staring at her in shock, and Skinner smiling at the both of us in amusement.
"Ah, Mulder, there you are," greeted Dana calmly. She handed him one of the coffees, which he took reflexively.
"What happened?" he asked, sounding almost panicked. "Kimberly called and told me there'd been a fight."
Dana hooked her free arm around his elbow and turned him back toward the door. "Oh, nothing much," she said, leading him out of the room.
Skinner burst into laughter, casually stuffing a handful of money into his pocket.
Shaking off my amazement, I turned to him, raising my eyebrow in silent question.
Composing himself, he waved me along and led me toward his office. Walking past his assistant, he let me into his office and shut the door behind us before breaking into chuckles again. Taking a seat at his desk, he removed his glasses and rubbed the tears out of his eyes. "Thank you, Chessman. I needed a good laugh." After a few more snickers, he composed himself again, put his glasses back on, and continued, "To what do I owe this visit?"
Ignoring the question, I asked, "Why'd you let that happen?"
He shrugged. "He deserved it. Besides, that ought to bring him down a peg or two. Might even make him a bearable individual," he added with a grin.
"What about Dana's reaction? Wasn't that a little . . . out of character?" I asked. I'd only known her for a while, but that was an extreme reaction to the situation from what I understood about her.
His smile widened. "She's been known to react strongly when someone defends Mulder."
There's an understatement. I smiled back hesitantly before shifting gears toward the official reason I was in the building. "Are you still the regional director?" Last time I was in town, I'd found out that was his position in the Watchers.
"Okay, you should know that Schonke and I told her partner about her Immortality." I figured he would know who I was talking about. He'd very likely know all the Immortals in the immediate area by name and face.
His eyebrow went up, and he leaned back in his chair. "Okay," he slowly began. "Are you suggesting that I should try to recruit him?"
I shrugged. "Your choice, but I thought you should be aware of it, if you haven't already been told by my Watcher or her's."
He nodded. "I'll have to think about it, but I'll probably have Roberts approach him. Anything else?"
I shook my head. "I was in the building to see Dana and Mulder, to tell them about Axemon."
He merely nodded, not saying anything else on the subject.
Shaking his hand, we said our good-byes. "Watch your head, Chessman," his well wish chased me out the door. Once beyond his doorway, his assistant Kimberly gave me a smile and a wink.
I smiled back and headed toward the elevators.
"Come in," Mulder called in response to my knock.
I entered and smiled at the both of them. "Hi. Just stopped by to tell you that Axemon won't be bothering you."
Dana nodded, and Mulder sighed in relief. "Thanks," they chorused.
After they shared a timid smile, Dana stood and politely excused herself, slipping past me and out the door. Once she'd closed it behind her, I turned to Mulder. He drug his eyes away from the doorway to return my look with a raised eyebrow. Studying him for a moment, I reached into my pocket and produced one of my cards. "Just in case you need this," I said. He took it with a raised eyebrow. "I know an Immortal priest that is willing to perform marriages," I explained nonchalantly.
His other eyebrow went up. He opened his mouth once, but nothing came out. Finally nodding with a small smile, he tucked the card away into his desk.
Seeing he'd accepted what I'd implied, I continued, "Do you know where JAG headquarters are?"
Stepping out of the elevators an hour later in Fall's Church, Virginia, I pushed my way through the swinging doors with the JAG emblem and into a open "bullpen" area with offices along the walls. I still hadn't run into Diane's Buzz. Not knowing what else to do, I scanned around, looking for a familiar face.
"Can I help you, sir?" asked an earnest faced Lieutenant with a folder in his hand.
"I was looking for Lieutenant Colonel MacKenzie," I answered.
"She's in court all day today."
I nodded. That explained why I couldn't Sense her. "Then how about Commander Rabb?"
He nodded and led me toward one of the closed office doors. Before he knocked, he said, "I'll announce you, Mister . . ." he trailed off in an obvious question.
"Ryan Chessman." I was looking right at him, so I caught his miniscule hesitation at my answer.
"Lieutenant Roberts," he introduced himself as he poked his head into Harm's office and announced me. Once done, he left the door standing open and nodded at me. "The Commander will see you."
Remembering something that Skinner had said earlier, I smiled and dropped my voice a little. "You keep WATCH over Colonel MacKenzie, Lieutenant. She's worth knowing."
He gave a subtle, secretive smile that seemed oddly out of place on his open face before his cheerful expression took over again. "Yes, she is," he agreed before moving off again, leaving me standing outside Harm's office.
Smiling at the young Watcher's back, I pushed open Rabb's door and entered, closing it softly behind me. Harm stood and shook my hand as I leaned over his desk. He waved me to one of the visitor chairs, and we both sat down. "What brings you to my humble abode?" he asked cheerfully.
"Just wanted to tell your partner that the reason I asked her to keep a low profile isn't an issue anymore."
His smile fled. "You . . ."
I nodded. "Took care of the problem, yes."
He sighed. "I doubt I'll ever get used to this life you have to lead."
I shrugged. "Not like I have much choice in the matter. Anyway, I just wanted to say goodbye to the two of you." I pulled a business card out of my pocket and handed it to him. "If either of you need to talk to me about anything, here's how you can get in touch with me."
He took the card without comment, standing to shake my hand again as I stood to leave.
With my hand on the doorknob, I paused in place and turned back to him. "There aren't all that many young Immortals running around that are worth knowing. Take care of her, Harm."
He nodded. "She's been my best friend for more than a decade. In one incarnation or another," he finished ruefully.
We shared a chuckle, and I waved on my way out the door.
The bell tinkled as I walked through the door marked "Nash Antiques". I was already within Connor's Buzz range, so I just waited, wandering around the room. I'd made arrangements with Kevin Kessler to return the borrowed Service badge that evening, but I had hours yet. I'd gone back into DC after talking to Harm and caught a shuttle to New York. One last piece of business to take care of.
An older woman, early sixties perhaps, smiled pleasantly at me and asked, "Can I help you?"
I smiled back. "May I speak with Mister Nash please? I have an item to deliver to him."
She took a step closer and held her hand out. "I can give it to him."
My smile fell a touch. "I'm afraid I have to deliver it directly to him. I'm a courier from MacLeod Antiques in Seacouver, you see." At least some of my documentation said that, anyway.
One eyebrow rose and she crossed over to an antique desk, lifting a phone and punching in a few numbers. Once the other end was answered, she said, "There is someone down here claiming to be a courier from MacLeod Antiques." She listened for a moment before looking up at me and responding to his apparent question with, "Mid twenties, brown, brown, five ten." She listened for another moment and asked me, "Your name?"
"Ryan Chessman," I answered immediately. I was surprised that Connor was leaving her down here unprotected as his first line of defense.
She repeated my name to Connor and then immediately relaxed. "I will," she answered and hung up. Turning to me, she said, "Connor is upstairs. Do you know the way?"
Connor? Then she knew who he really was. That meant that she was willingly protecting him. "Thank you, I've been here before," I answered her. I headed toward the stairs and stopped with my front foot on the first step. Turning back to her, I said, "I'm a student of Duncan MacLeod. I have no wish to harm his kinsman."
She nodded, apparently accepting my words. She turned back to the paperwork on her desk as I climbed up the stairway to the apartment above the antique store. Coming out on the landing, I saw Connor down the hallway, his katana in hand. When he saw that it was indeed me, he twirled his sword in a quick circle to come into an "at rest" position along the back of his arm and waved me toward his apartment.
I slowly shuffled in, fatigue finally catching up with me after a rough week. I collapsed into his couch, leaned my head back, and let out a sigh. I'd caught some sleep on the train, but a Quickening, a short night, and all my running around today meant that I was seriously fatigued at this point.
Connor had silently watched me enter. I could hear him closing the door, then he crossed over to his kitchenette, laying his katana aside as he pulled something out of his refrigerator. Popping the top off a can, he walked over to me and placed the drink on the coffee table that I was currently using as a footrest. Taking a seat beside me, we were both silent for a few minutes before he commented, "Hi, Ryan. Nice to see you, too. Here, come in and have a seat. Want a beer?"
I smiled without opening my eyes. "Hi, Connor. How've you been? Mind if I come in? We need to talk. Yes, please."
He chuckled, and I could hear him lean back into the couch. "You okay?" he asked quietly.
I opened my eyes and stared at the ceiling for a moment, studying the wooden beams. Sighing heavily, I leaned forward and grabbed the beer, taking a quick slug. Leaning back, I answered, "No, not really."
"What's wrong?" he asked in the same quiet, understanding, patient voice.
I was silent for a few more seconds before giving the most honest answer that I could come up with. "I'm just tired of the Game," I said quietly, studying the aluminum can in my hands. I absently noted that Connor had abysmal taste in beer.
He got up and poured himself a drink from a large decanter before sitting on a chair facing the couch. "Want to talk about it?"
I shrugged lethargically. "I found Andrea's killer. Nothing more to talk about, really." Pulling myself upright again, I put the beer onto the table. Reaching into my coat, I pulled out the wakizashi I'd taken off of Axemon. It was an amazingly light weapon, I noted in passing as I placed it onto the table. Taking my seat again, I idly studied the sword. It wasn't a classically produced weapon. The hilt was in geometric designs instead of some sculpture like the MacLeods' dragon head katanas.
Placing his drink down, Connor gently picked up the wakizashi and stared at it for nearly a minute before looking back up at me. "How?" was all he asked.
Staring at the beer in my hands again, idly rolling it around, I answered in a monotone, "That friend that found me at Andrea's funeral told me about someone taking a shot at another friend in DC. She escaped, barely. I later stumbled into him trying to take down yet another female Immortal." I took another drink before continuing. "Seems he exclusively hunted female Immortals." I smiled grimly and went on. "I hunted him back. Found him, too." I waved at the weapon Connor was holding and facetiously said, "He had good taste in swords, though." It wasn't even nicked from our fight the previous night.
"Thank you," Connor said quietly, referring to my actions instead of my last comment. He probably hadn't even heard it, since he was still staring at the sword he held. Shaking off the melancholy threatening to drag him down, he asked. "You going to keep it?" He already knew I used a wakizashi and combat knife in tandem.
I nodded. "Probably. That one is in good shape. Amazingly light and durable." Besides, I wasn't all that emotionally attached to my weapon like the MacLeods were.
"Titanium alloy," ventured Connor. "Tough to do, but it produces excellent weapons when it's done right, as this one apparently was." He flipped it over and offered it to me by the hilt.
I stood and slipped my new primary weapon into the special sheath in my coat. Taking my seat again, I raised my drink in a toast. "To Andrea Price-O'Day. An honorable woman who fell entirely too early."
Connor raised his shot glass and nodded. "To Andrea."